Mr. Yomari and his Home-based Workers
In a society where the only hints of dessert come in the form of a handful of fennel seeds and sugar, Rabin Amatya rebranded a delicacy central to Newari culture as a Nepali dessert, and made the humble yomari comparable to any modern confectionery.
The Village Cafe was established in 2011 after the initial success of SABAH, the SAARC Business Association of Home-based Workers. Amatya dreamed of a restaurant showcasing Newari culture in the most authentic way possible, by employing Newari women from the grassroots level. He trained them in product standardization and quality control, and by carefully tweaking Newari culture, Amatya ensured that, in his cafe, the traditional touch was married with the gourmet experience.
Traditionally, yomari is only made once a year during a festival known as Yomari Punhi. This is largely due to the fact that making yomari is a tedious process involving a fair bit of logistics and hassle. As a result of this, yomari was disappearing from the mainstream in Nepal. By moving this process to a modern kitchen, standardizing recipes, and rebranding it, The Village Cafe pulled the yomari back into the limelight.
They also created a unique value chain by directly participating with each node in their supply line, and they take pride in the fact that two hundred workers are directly involved. Whether it be in the production of rice, or in serving the cooked yomari, The Village Cafe works with local marginalized communities, a laudable effort, and additionally, by involving direct members in every step of the yomari-making process, they ensure that the yomari produced are of the highest quality, and as authentic as possible.
Yomari is as diverse as it is tasty. Traditionally, it is filled with two core ingredients, khuwa, a concentrate of milk, or chaku, a mixture of sugar molasses, sesame, and coconut. At The Village Café, you’ll also find yomari filled with the universal dessert, chocolate. Savory mushroom-filled yomari were also invented. In addition, Amatya realized that by adjusting its size, the same yomari could serve different purposes; small ones as dessert, medium-sized ones as snacks, and large ones as a proper meal. In following the trend of deconstruction in the modern culinary world, The Village Cafe also started selling deconstructed yomari. Yomari, split open, with an ice cream scoop in the middle and glazed with chocolate syrup.
The Village Cafe is an epitome of the modern approach to economic empowerment. They take individuals already skilled in a craft, and commercialize their efforts. By utilizing skills already available in the market, they not only ensure that home-based workers’ skills do not go to waste, but also negate the need for training more manpower. In doing so, they have economically empowered these individuals, and have also created a value chain that benefits society. Amatya is especially proud that all of their ingredients are locally sourced, with even the ketchup made in-house with Nepali tomatoes.
As if all this was not enough, Amatya and The Village Cafe revived a delicacy that was at risk of disappearing from our society. Yomari was once synonymous with Yomari Punhi, that one day in the middle of December. Now, it is rebranded as a snack, a dessert, and a cornerstone of The Village Cafe. In addition to all this, the cafe got creative and reinvented the yomari, creating what could very well be the first truly modern Nepali dessert. And, behind all this are the smiling women of The Village Café, with Mr. Yomari, Rabin Amatya, providing able guidance from the background.